TELLURIDE (AP) – If you are in Telluride long enough, you will probably notice a guy on the town’s main street who is seemingly out every day taking pictures of Ajax Peak, historic buildings, dogs and children – you name it, he’s taken a picture of it.
His name is Scott Smith, and for the better part of a decade, he’s been documenting the goings-on around town. Born in Ophir, Smith has spent most of his life in the region (with stints in Durango and Denver), and witnessed the changes that many newcomers have only heard about.
He remembers when the town’s population dwindled and the community’s fate was unclear. He was around during the fledgling days of the ski resort, and saw new characters enter the scene.
During the pre-ski resort days, Smith remembers Telluride as a real-life version of the fictional town of Mayberry – from “The Andy Griffith Show” – an idyllic small town with a strong sense of community.
According to Smith, in the late 1960s and ’70s, a lot of the town’s oldest residents, whom he calls “the Mayberry people,” left in a sort of exodus. Smith was living in Denver at the time.
“I come back and my whole town had moved away,” he said. “And they hadn’t sent a forwarding address.”
And while many of the residents he knew growing up have left, Smith has stayed and is taking pictures to link past community members to the present.
“What I was trying to do was find a way to communicate with the old timers – the pre-’60s Telluride residents that had all left,” he said about his decision to start a Facebook page where he posts his photography daily.
His efforts don’t stop on the town’s main street. He attends reunions and memorials, takes pictures of permit applications posted on buildings, attends and photographs town events and shares obituaries and death notices on his page.
“I’m very driven to post things like the obituaries because it is so important for a community to stay totally connected,” he said. “For a lot of these people, their obituaries might not make it into the local paper and people (who have moved away) wouldn’t know any other way.”
Smith said people often write to him with requests that he post a notice or obituary if he hasn’t already.
“I’m not digging to find people dying, but all these people know that I post and that 2,500 people connected to Telluride will immediately know about a death,” he said.
As for the picture taking, if you once lived here and are heading back for a visit, you might just get your photo snapped by Smith, who said he likes “to catch people sneaking through town and call them out and take their picture.”
Smith said it is a way to keep everyone in the loop. For the same reason, he shoots photos at reunions and memorials so that old friends can reconnect.
“They love the pictures and love seeing their old friends,” he said of people who follow his Facebook page. “If I see somebody walking up the street and they are a former Telluride High School graduate, I want that picture, and I post them because that is the catnip to the community.
“I want them (past residents) to try and follow how all these people are doing: good or bad,” he said.
When he isn’t taking pictures of people, he focuses on “little nuances” and details residents may have forgotten to appreciate, like the elk, sunsets and sunrises.
“I like to photograph things unique to Telluride, things unique to life and things I think people should appreciate more,” he said.
To date, Smith said he has posted more than 4,500 shots of sunrises and sunsets in the area.
With a majority of his albums labeled Telluride Today, categorized by volume and day, it is clear that Smith is not solely taking pictures; he’s documenting Telluride’s daily evolution.
“You’ll realize that I’m driven to tell a story to tell our story, and it is (about) who is here now and what we are doing,” he said.
Art Goodtimes, a former county commissioner and a friend of Smith’s, calls him the “community chronicler.”
“Telluride is lucky to have Scott Smith, who knows this community so well,” Goodtimes said. “He’s become the community chronicler, and that’s a great gift to all of us.”
Whether he’s taking pictures of construction projects in town (something he does often) or catching “a couple of love bugs walking up the street,” Smith is hoping his efforts will strengthen Telluride’s community connections.
“I’m trying to rebuild Mayberry, one brick at a time.”